February 7, 2002
The Sierra Club, along with Friends of the Bitterroot, The Wilderness Society and other environmental groups, negotiated with the U.S. Forest Service to protect 15,000 acres of pristine roadless areas, limit logging in the Bitterroot National Forest in western Montana, and uphold the right of citizens and organizations to comment on and appeal USFS decisions.
The environmental groups filed suit against the Forest Service after Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey signed the “Burned Area Recovery” plan, which, according to the Sierra Club, eliminated the public appeals process and forced opponents to litigate. The groups were granted a preliminary injunction, which the government appealed. A government request for the approval of “emergency” sales was then denied. Judge Hogan presided over the mediations that ended with a settlement Feb. 7.
The original Bitterroot project was to be the largest timber sale in United States history, producing 190 million board feet of timber from 46,000 acres of forests burned during the summer forest fires of 2000. Under the agreement, only 55 million board feet will now be logged. Of the 17,000 acres of roadless area included in the original project, 15,000 have been saved, including critical habitat for the bull trout and cutthroat trout.
Sierra Club and other groups will continue to watch the Forest Service closely to ensure that logging in the Bitterroot is done with the least damage possible. Salvage logging, says the Sierra Club, disrupts the forest’s natural cycle of renewal and increases sediment runoff into streams.